New Rose Beauty (Actually About Europe and Those Muhammad 'Toons)

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Europe today finds itself trapped in a posture of moral relativism that is undermining its liberal values. An unholy three-cornered alliance between Middle East dictators, radical imams who live in Europe, and Europe's traditional left wing is enabling a politics of victimology. This politics drives a culture that resists integration and adaptation, perpetuates national and religious differences, and aggravates such debilitating social ills as high immigrant crime rates and entrenched unemployment.

That's from Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten who published the Muhammad cartoons that caused such a stir (it seems like it was only yesterday). Whole article here.

I don't so much disagree with his shtick above as much as I want to supplement it: Don't forget to blame Europe's traditional right wing, too, and in fact, don't forget to blame Europe in general–not for the idiotic worldwide violence that ensued (that's the Islamists' fault), but for immigration and citizenship policies that remain rooted in blood and soil.

That is, in tribal solidarity rather than the Enlightenment value of universal rights, that we are all citizens of the world. As the U.S. gets roiled in its own mostly stupid debate over immigration and, as important, what it means to be an "American," we've neglected to acknowledge fully the genius of our simple citizenship model: Anyone who is born here qualifies for citizenship and anyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background, can be a full-fledged citizen. That's a real achievement (and exceedingly rare even in today's world) and the many periods in history where our country turned away from that openness don't undercut it.

Hat tip: Alan Vanneman, film critic extraordinaire.

NEXT: Bill O'Reilly Stabs Our Boys in The Back

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  1. Anyone who is born here qualifies for citizenship and anyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background, can be a full-fledged citizen.

    Isn’t this tying citizenship to soil?

    I think the problem was better summarised in a post about a week ago, when it was claimed that immigrants assimilate better because America insists on work.

    – Josh

  2. I’ve been concerned that the underground nature of the illegal immigrant population in our nation is tending to perpetuate linguistic and cultural differences, and proving a barrier to assimilation.

    If an immigrant is worried that an anglo shopkeeper or employer might turn him in as an illegal, mightn’t he tend to stick with other immigrants in his daily business? (This on top of the normal degree to which this has happened in our history, simply due to comfort and convenience.) Without the daily exposure to the melting pot, it’s pretty easy for immigrants to remain culturally distinct, even across generations.

    As a force pushing illegal immigrants in this direction, I think that it’s a persuasive argument that our current immigration laws and policies are actually hindering the function of the “melting pot,” and causing the emergence of ethnic ghettos.

  3. As the U.S. gets roiled in its own mostly stupid debate over immigration and, as important, what it means to be an “American,” we’ve neglected to acknowledge fully the genius of our simple citizenship model: Anyone who is born here qualifies for citizenship and anyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background, can be a full-fledged citizen.

    Yeah, that model worked real well for the French (ee, e.g., http://www.amconmag.com/2005/2005_12_19/feature.html), didn’t it?

  4. Well it’s certainly worked well for monkeyfaced paddies with names like “Seamus.” Where the hell do they get off calling themselves Americans?

  5. Mr. Cavanagh:

    I’ll agree that it works pretty well for those who actually want to assimilate into the culture of the country they are settling. But ask the American Indians if unrestricted immigration was good for them.

  6. I think we should go even further back – I’ll bet the buffalo wish they built a fence to keep out the American Indians.

  7. The Paddys didn’t want to assimilate, that’s where the catholic school systems came from, since the WASPs were shoving godless protestantism down the Paddy’s kid’s throats.

    They only wanted to make a buck and buy some land, and own a gun to kill anyone who tried to take the land or the money away from them.

    And what is more Amercian than that?

  8. Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
    Emma Lazarus

  9. But ask the American Indians if unrestricted immigration was good for them.

    Continuing to lazily trot out simple-mined statements like that as if they are meaningful absent some (any!) actual reasoned articulation of the point you think you’re making isn’t helping your side. But I guess you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to recycle a catchy sounding, yet meaningless, quip for want of actual substance.

  10. Nick is right on, as usual, the opportunity for progress and personal achievement brings out the best in people. Collectively, we are diminished whenever an individual is prevented from exercising their right to prosper. The United States’ ability to accept new inputs and provide a chance for the best in people to shine through has improved the lives of all Americans and, believe it or not, a startling number of non-Americans through the sciences, literature, technology, and the embrace of individual freedom.
    Of course, there are shitbags in the mix who don’t deserve the shot, but in total, any network will become more efficient and creative when its number of functioning inputs is increased.
    Immigration values and policies that tend to foster isolation, tribalism, and fear stand in the way of the positive network externality associated with an expanding, integrated population.

  11. Mr. Courts:

    Actually, I thought the point was pretty obvious, but if you need me to draw you a map, I’ll do my best: The Indians rightly recognized that, while they might not be adversely affected if small numbers of white Europeans settled along the Atlantic coast, letting large numbers in would lead to the demographic and cultural displacement of the Indians. The Europeans’ culture was so different from that of the Indians, and their numbers so great, that the Indians had little expectation that the Europeans would simply assimilate into the existing Indian culture. And what do you know? The Indians were right. Because they were unable to control immigration by white Europeans, they ended up as strangers in their own country.

    Similarly, Palestinian Arabs in the first half of the 20th century realized that massive Jewish immigration into Palestine would lead to the demographic and cultural transformation of Palestine, and the loss of its Arab character. They were right.

    And now, when Arabs and their supporters call for a “right of return” to Palestine of those whose ancestors fled at the creation of Israel in 1948, the Israelis object that allowing uncontrolled immigration of Palestinian Arabs into Israel would lead to the demographic and cultural transformation of Israel, and the loss of its Jewish character. They are right.

    Just saying we’ll let anybody in, regardless of ethnicity or culture, in as many numbers as want to come, is a recipe for losing your country as surely as the American Indians and the Palestinian Arabs lost theirs. (They at least knew what would happen and tried to resist it, though it ultimately didn’t do them any good.)

  12. It’s easy to mouth platitudes about the Enlightenment value of universal rights, but that doesn’t mean tribal solidarity goes away. Just look at Tim’s response, which is reflexive and angry tribalism.

  13. Collectively, we are diminished whenever an individual is prevented from exercising their right to prosper.

    That’s a very elegant statement, and the only “collectively, we are diminished whenever..” statement I’ve ever agreed with.

    Is that a Rand quote? I’ve never read Rand – and I’m never going to, nya nya nya nya nya – but I know she said some stuff that I find appealing.

  14. Seamus:

    The problem with that line of reasoning is that its comparing political entities with distinctive tribal characteristics, when the U.S. is unique in that its not based on a tribal, religious, or even linguistic identity, but a common adherence to a legal system and a universal system of rights. What tribes we form under that system, and what tribes live under that system are largely irrelevant as long as they continue to adhere to the system. As long as immigrants don’t proceed to put Stalinists in power or support secessionist movements- and neither seem very likely- I can’t see us “losing” our country.

    And this is coming from a pale white boy from the midwest who now lives on the wrong side of the tracks in Albuquerque, so to say I have no exposure to immigrants from the south of the border is entirely false; that, and my experience is generally quite positive.

  15. Seamus, your argument is essentially a collectivist, group-identity one, which, as has been pointed out ad nauseum on here, is the root of damn near all evil perpetrated in the history of civilization. The irony is that your argument rests on the very cause of all the damage you claim to want to avoid – i.e. treating people not as individuals with the identical fundamental human rights as yourself, but as a member of some group who may be treated differently for no other reason than they posses the group defining characteristic.

    And, as long as you are clarifying your point that was so obvious, please explain how your argument is fundamentally different from the arguments made by those opposed to ending the notion of “separate but equal” or any of the Jim Crow laws? Were they also right that allowing blacks to learn, live and work side-by-side with whites would destroy their southern culture? If your “cultural protectionist” argument is to carry any weight when applied to Europeans and Native Americans (or Arabs and Jews) it certainly carries equal weight when applied to Europeans and African-Americans.

    We can either give in to those ancient tribal urges and perpetuate the collectivist, group-identity view of humanity and be assured of continued evil or we can fight it and treat every human as an equal individual. Doing so we must refuse to base our decisions of who is to be granted or denied fundamental human rights (e.g. freedom of association) on whether or not that individual belongs to a favored or disfavored group. Ultimately viewing people as Black or While, Arab or Jew, European or Native American, Mexican or American, rather than individuals is simply morally wrong. Given the long and sad history of the horrors visited on people by those who made and accepted arguments like yours, it is not hard to know which view of humanity is right and which should be flushed down the toilet of bad ideas.

  16. Just saying we’ll let anybody in, regardless of ethnicity or culture, in as many numbers as want to come, is a recipe for losing your country. . .

    What is “your” country? That implies ownership that you don’t have. You own what you own, but that doesn’t include my home or business. Why do you get to decide who I may hire or rent to? It shouldn’t be any of your business. Again, it is no different than if you decided I shouldn’t be able to hire blacks because of the damage that would be done to our culture.

    If cultural protection at the expense of the individual’s desire to work where he wants is a valid choice for a government to impose, than you can have no argument with those that sought to use government to protect their southern way of life by keeping blacks separate in schools, work, and housing.

  17. citizenship policies that remain rooted in blood and soil.

    Oooh, you said a mouthful there, brother.

  18. “And this is coming from a pale white boy from the midwest who now lives on the wrong side of the tracks in Albuquerque, ”

    Being autochthonous to Albuquerque I wonder which side is the wrong side.

    NM is the state that throws a kink in the whole “immigrants are going to change the nature of our culture thing” for it is the very culture Seamus is afraid will be diluted that is alien to NM. The area was once part of Mexico and has retained much of that country’s culture(including large numbers of Spanish speakers), so how would immigration from the south lead to a cultural transformation? Only by returning the area to its cultural roots.

  19. Postmodern…

    And of course you points are spot on.

  20. Geesh, I thought Seamus had a pretty good argument when he pointed out that successive people from all over the world have suffered very similar fates when different cultures supplanted them. Then along comes Brian and PostModern and I realized that they just got what was good for them. H&R sure is educational.

  21. Wayne,
    Your education might require more practice at careful reading. “got what was good for them” ain’t the claim. It is one of those solution-is-worse-than-problem issues with a bit of a scaling problem thrown in. There are 300 million Americans with a wide diversity of cultural affinity… swamping that would be a long slow process that would result not in a loss, but a change.

    David Brin has a piece worth reading if you are actually interested in thinking about this issue:

    http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/altruistic-horizons-our-tribal-natures.html#comments

  22. Seamus, your argument is essentially a collectivist, group-identity one, which, as has been pointed out ad nauseum on here, is the root of damn near all evil perpetrated in the history of civilization. The irony is that your argument rests on the very cause of all the damage you claim to want to avoid – i.e. treating people not as individuals with the identical fundamental human rights as yourself, but as a member of some group who may be treated differently for no other reason than they posses the group defining characteristic.

    I have a hard time understanding how the Indians got screwed because they failed to treat the white men as individuals but instead judged them as members of an alien culture that aimed to displace them their way of life. They got screwed in spite of that judgement, which was, in fact, a clear-headed and accurate assessment the threat that faced them, however, much you tut-tut about “the root of damn near all evil.”

    I take it, by the way, that you agree that Israel ought to allow a “right of return” to all descendants of Arabs who fled from what is now Israel in 1948?

    (And lest I be accused of ducking an argument, it should be obvious that the problem with Jim Crow wouldn’t have arised without massive immigration (involuntary, to be sure) from Africa. The problem with Jim Crow is that white Southerners were trying to have it both ways: having forced Africans to come to America (or acquiesced in their involuntary immigration by buying slaves off the dock from those who had forced them to come here), they then tried to avoid the consequences of having blacks in their country.)

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